Marketing Strategies of Harley-Davidson

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Case Details:

Case Code : MKTG174
Case Length : 19 Pages
Period : 1995-2007
Pub Date : 2007
Teaching Note :Not Available
Organization : Harley-Davidson
Industry : Automobile - Motorcycle
Countries : US

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"Because our bikes are so visually and audibly compelling, you get a bunch of them together, whether by the dozen or the thousands, there's going to be excitement and curiosity. Add to that the fun associated with motorcycling and you've got natural word-of-mouth promotion. In a very real sense, our customers are the sales force, and the bikes, accessories and clothing serve as our calling cards." 1

- Ken Schmidt, Director of Communications, Harley-Davidson Motor Company.

"All successful companies have the same challenge, it's crisis of success. Arrogance, greed and complacency: you have to avoid all three to remain successful."2

- Richard F. Teerlink, Retired CEO, Harley-Davidson Motor Company.


On January 17, 2007, USRiderNews3 named Harley-Davidson Motor Company's (H-D's) 'Softail Custom' motorbike as the "Best New Nostalgic Bike of 2007".4 According to Scott Cochran, Editor of USRiderNews, "The new 2007 Softail Custom recalls the looks of those B-movie bikes of the 1960s. Ape hanger handlebars, heavily stepped king-and-queen seats, padded sissy bars and wide forks with 21-inch front wheels all speak volumes to the 'Easy Rider' set. But this outlaw comes in armed with Harley's most modern and powerful standard engine to date - the Twin Cam 96 plus the bonafide easy rider - Harley's 'Softail' chassis."5 Founded in the year 1903, H-D started its business as a manufacturer of heavy-weight motorcycles, which had an engine displacement6 of 651cc or above.

Marketing Management Case Studies | Case Study in Management, Operations, Strategies, Marketing Management, Case Studies

H-D also produced a full range of motorcycle parts, accessories, clothing, and general merchandise. The company focused on traditional styling, design, simplicity, durability, and quality.

It launched new models regularly, customized according to the needs and requirements of customers. H-D's marketing campaign aimed at shifting the owners of the company's motorcycles to bigger and more expensive motorcycles.

The distribution of H-D motorcycles was done mainly through dealerships and also through non-traditional outlets which were extensions of the main dealership. H-D's products were sold to retail customers primarily through dealer promotions, the company's website, customer events, and advertising through national television, print, radio, direct mailings, and through advertising on the Internet.

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1] "Harley-Davidson: Marketing an American Icon,", January 15, 2007.

2] Rebecca Smith, "Taking the High Road - An Inside Look at Motorcycle Giant Harley-Davidson,", 2003.

3] Set up by Scott and Sylvia Cochran in the year 2000 as Dixie Rider National Motorcycle News, it soon became one of the most popular advertising-based, free publications in South US. A unique state insert program was launched in the year 2004 so as to bring local news and reports which were absent in other national motorcycle publications. In 2005, responding to the request of the readers and advertisers, the name Dixie Rider National Motorcycle News was changed to USRiderNews and the publication was distributed nationally. It is published every month by Thunder Wind Publishing.

4] "Harley-Davidson's Softail Custom Awarded Best New Nostalgic Bike of 2007,", January 17, 2007.

5] "Harley-Davidson's Softail Custom Awarded Best New Nostalgic Bike of 2007,", January 17, 2007.

6] Engine displacement refers to the total volume of air/fuel mixture that can be drawn in by an engine during one complete engine cycle. Usually, it is stated in cubic centimetres, litres, or cubic inches.


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